Jan 20, 2016
Lancehot (All reviews)
When it comes to recommending anime comedies, the question that comes to mind is often not what someone's sense of humour is like, but how many other comedies they've already seen. I say this because, though hardly unique to anime, it's a notable feature of anime comedies that they often rely the same set of jokes & observations. This is especially true of what might be considered "otaku" comedies, which when not making show specific parodies often revolve around a small & instantly familiar set of, I suppose, acceptable gags.

Hacka Doll: The Animation is very much in this comedic vein. With some exceptions, Hacka Doll's episodes revolve around the same collection of jokes & setups that every other comedy targeting the otaku audience seems to. That's not to say everything here has been done before, but many episodes have a general sense of deja vu about them that can take one out of the right mood.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Hacka Doll takes place in an alternate Japan where society seems to have declined to such a point that people are now reliant on the phone summoned help of magical girls to deal with their mundane problems (maybe not so alternate after all). The show follows Bubbly, Busty & Bored, three of the titular Hacka Dolls who have a reputation for being singularly incompetent at their job, as they are sent to aid various people with their various problems - with each episode being a standalone story.

One could quickly find themselves dismissing Hacka Doll as relying on jokes that have been done before, because it does. That's not to say there isn't anything new, or at least not too obviously recycled, to keep things from feeling completely derivative. The parody of Shirobako, in particular, was entertaining by virtue of the whole episode being dedicated to it rather than just making an offhand reference.

The use of delinquent character types in some episodes was also nice to see, although it had the unintended effect of reminding me that Cromartie High School came out 13 years ago & things haven't got better. Indeed there's also a random gorilla in Hacka Doll, which makes me wonder if the writers also had Cromartie in mind.

But for every joke that smells fresh, there's 3 that are stale. While those who haven't seen many anime comedies might not have this problem, there's only so many times I can laugh at the same routines done with almost no variation. Hahaha, talking to real girls isn't like in dating sims. Hahaha, fujoshi like BL. Hahaha, Busty Doll's covered in sticky white stuff. Hahaha, Bored Doll's dick fell off. Wait...

The point is that a lot of what's in Hacka Doll has been done, & while seeing old jokes reinterpreted or presented in new ways is one of the fun things about comedy, Hacka Doll is one of those shows which has a sense that the writers feel if something was funny then, you shouldn't change it now. You might hope that some variation comes from seeing new characters take on old scenarios, but Bubbly, Busty & Bored are utterly generic character types that are instantly recognizable from the first moment you see them; nor do they draw any different conclusions or react to things in any way except what you'd expect them to.

Part of the problem, & this is the case with a lot of otaku humour, is that the jokes are otaku-centric but go to pains not to be offensive or too deprecating of otaku themselves. Thus we get the usual cop outs where, for instance, the obsessive idol otaku has some inoffensive jokes made at his expense before ultimately concluding that his excessive level of support is something that the recipient is & should be grateful for. I'm not saying comedy needs to be edgy, but a bit of self-deprecation or acknowledgement that you can laugh at the peculiarities & strangeness within ones own culture or social group without having to add the "but it's okay to do that, please don't be offended" disclaimer would be nice.

On the technical front, Hacka Doll is a pretty competent show. The characters look decent, the animation is limited but not awful, the music is okay for what it is & generally it's a standard production for a short. There is one noticeable cost cutting trick they do that does detract from the experience, though. At least once in each episode, the director seems to have chosen to do a digital zoom to get a closeup of a character's face, rather than drawing a new cut to achieve the same goal.

This wouldn't be a problem, except the raw images used were evidently not of a high enough resolution to avoid that blurry & rather ugly effect you get when you enlarge a low resolution image. Also, because Hacka Doll has songs that it's trying to sell, we're also treated to the same dance routines that, as always, use the same Miku Miku Dance movements you see in every other lower budget show with idols. Three cheers for original choreography.

Ultimately Hacka Doll is an okay-ish short comedy where your enjoyment is most likely going to be based on two things: 1) do you like otaku humour? & 2) have you seen other anime comedies? It's a pretty safe & standard show that doesn't do anything to make it noteworthy, but at the same time is not completely reliant on recycled jokes from other, better shows.

Maybe it's in part because Hacka Doll was made to promote, of all things, a mobile news aggregating app that the producers wanted to play it safe & avoid, I suppose, tarnishing their brand with any of the target audience. Personally I'd have thought soaking your mascot in spunk-substitute would do more to harm your image than making some more original jokes. But I'm not a Japanese marketer, so what do I know.